Friday 24 April 2015

KM at the TI Office of Best Practices

In 1994, the CEO of Texas Instruments, Jerry Junkins, gave is organisation an ultimatum. "We can not tolerate having world-class performance right next to mediocre performance simply because we don't have a method to implement best practices." The response to this was the development of an Office of Best Practices.

This is a Knowledge Management story from the early days - about 20 years ago- but is interesting because a) it is so contrary to modern ideas of KM being a centralised initiative focused on Best Practice, but b) it worked and delivered huge value.

The TI approach, based around the Best Practices office, had a number of elements:

A network of about 150 Best Practice Sharing Facilitators around the business. These were 'knowledge brokers' who:

  • collected best practice from a number of sources 
  • distilled information on these into more formal best practice documents that can be shared to close gaps. They document just enough to be a useful pointer to the appropriate contact or to further information. 
  • sought out and documented best practices in their part of the business 
  • distributed and promoted the use of best practice sharing across their part of the business 

 2) 2-3 people in the centre to manage the network
 3) a best practice knowledge base structured around a set of Generic Process Definitions.   Any new distilled best practice were put into this database under one of these processes. People can then easily find good practice for any particular business process.

In addition to the formal database, they made use of a more loosely structured Intranet for more informal sharing. This was one of the sources used by the network of facilitators for identifying new best practice.

They claim to have saved $0.5 billion just on following best practice in the fabrication plants.

The approach they took to introducing this is interesting.

  1. they started off with a 'Year of Supply', where they concentrated on identifying, distilling and documenting good practice. 
  2. they then had a 'Year of Demand', where the focus was on getting people to use these practices, and identifying gaps where people were looking for best practice but not finding it. 

TI also took incentivization seriously. Their approach was to link best practice sharing to bonus payments, where best practice sharing was measured using evidence of supplying examples of best practice, running learning workshops, etc. They concluded early on that it was important to reward behaviour not value - they felt that if they tried to base rewards on the value added by sharing this would kill the initiative.

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